2010s Franchises and Super-Producers in 10 Charts: Part 1

Here is part one of a two-part article series exploring how broadcast television franchises and super-producers fared in the 2010s decade. Each write-up comes with a graph. The x-axis displays the year, and the y-axis displays the shows’ ratings relative to the league average. So, a 100 would be an average-rated show. For the purposes of simplifying the x-axis, the year listed coincides with the fall season of when a show started airing. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

The Fall of CSI
CSI seemed like an unstoppable franchise in the 2000s. Not only was the original show doing great, but it also had two very successful spinoffs in CSI: NY and CSI: Miami. Both spinoffs faded in the 2010s, as did CSI. One could argue that tough schedule had to do with the downfall, with the franchise stuffing slots like Sundays at 10 (and even later on football nights). But even after CBS canceled all three shows, they tried to keep the franchise alive with CSI: Cyber. A retooled second season couldn’t save its ratings woes, and the franchise completely disappeared from CBS’s schedule by the middle of the decade.

The Law & Order Missteps
Sure, the Law & Order franchise had two big successes in the 2010s decade. First, the original Law & Order was renewed for a 20th season, tying the record for most seasons of a live-action prime time show in history. Then, the first spinoff, Special Victims Unit, did the same in 2018, with a 2019 renewal pushing it to the record-breaking 21st season. That being said, the Law & Order franchise could’ve had a much better decade. Law & Order (the show) stumbled its way to the finish line with poor ratings, and immediate spinoff Law & Order: LA flopped despite many efforts to keep it alive. NBC tried again in 2017 with Law & Order: True Crime, and anthology in the vein of American Crime Story that aired after This Is Us. True Crime was canceled after just one season. NBC also ordered a reality series, Law & Order: You The Jury, but it never aired. Law & Order: Hate Crimes is supposedly an upcoming installment, but constant delays put its chances at success into question. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is hanging in there, doing OK in tough time slots and seeing impressive DVR gains, but it’s by no means the massive hit it used to be. While the franchise will continue into the 2020s decade, a CSI-like conclusion to it isn’t too far out of the realm of possibilities. As a final note: Law & Order: Criminal Intent aired its later seasons on TNT, explaining why its low placement on the graph. 

The Rise of Chicago
The good news for Dick Wolf is, despite the Law & Order franchise setbacks, his Chicago franchise is doing well for NBC. That being said, it was far from an overnight success. Chicago Fire premiered in 2012 to subpar ratings, but NBC went ahead and ordered spinoff Chicago PD for the next season regardless. Chicago Med followed a couple years after that. Fire has consistently been used to fix tough time slots, PD has kept its Wednesday at 10 slot its whole run, and Med has gone back and forth between being protected and being asked a lot, such as anchoring Thursdays. The low point of the franchise was ironically when it had the most shows airing at the same time. With Chicago Fire failing to get a syndication deal, NBC reportedly started to rethink their goal with this franchise and canceled the fourth installment, Chicago Justice, after a short first season. This is despite the show’s renewable ratings. The franchise truly found its footing in 2018, when all three remaining Chicago shows started airing together on Wednesday nights. Currently, the shows are still on an upswing, and are some of the higher-rated shows on television. That fifth Chicago show Dick Wolf was talking about years ago might not happen right away, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see more than one Chicago series still on the air without any signs of Law & Order by the mid-2020s.

Arrowverse Gives The CW A New Direction
When The CW first launched, they mostly consisted of the best of The WB combined with the best of UPN. They went into the decade with mostly young female-skewing shows, and have taken a change in direction ever since. Yes, they’ve had critical successes in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane The Virgin, but their ratings success comes from the Arrowverse. This consists of Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and Batwoman, the latter of which isn’t included in the below chart due to having not finished airing its first season. The success of the Arrowverse has led to unrelated comic-book shows for The CW, such as Black Lightning and Riverdale. The Arrowverse, despite all its successes, has been on a bit of a downswing lately. The CW will likely continue to make these shows, but they don’t appear to be saving the network the way they were just a few years ago. Also of note: the first season of Supergirl aired on CBS, naturally giving it higher ratings.

NCIS Is Hanging In There...
CBS ended the CSI franchise (at least for now), but they still have NCIS. They went into the 2010s decade with just the original show and half a season of its first spinoff, NCIS: LA. They have since added NCIS: NO to the lineup, and another spinoff was in development before ultimately being rejected in pilot season. What’s interesting is that CBS has never tried to air all three NCIS shows on one night like NBC is doing with the Chicagos. NCIS has kept its Tuesday at 8 time slot for its entire run so far, and NCIS: NO has at least stayed on Tuesdays its whole run, but NCIS: LA has been shifted around the schedule many times. First, it moved to Monday, and has now aired regularly in the 8, 9, and (briefly) 10pm slots on Sundays. NCIS: NO will be leaving Tuesdays and heading to the Sunday at 10pm time slot in spring 2020, making room for two Dick Wolf-produced FBI shows on Tuesdays. Could they be phasing out NCIS and making room for FBI? Could the franchise and possible-upcoming-franchise coexist? Time will tell, and it should be one of the biggest franchise-based stories to look for in the 2020s decade.
...And Its Universe Is As Well
The NCIS universe doesn’t stop at the three NCIS shows. In fact, NCIS itself is a spinoff of the 1990s-2000s show JAG. The NCIS universe expanded in the 2010s decade to include reboots of Hawaii Five-0 and MacGyver, as well as the show Scorpion. While Scorpion was canceled after four seasons, and every veteran season was a sharp decline in the ratings from the previous one, it was a bubble show at the end and seen as somewhat of a success. Hawaii Five-0 has seen a second life lately, proving its worth on Fridays, and MacGyver proved to be a good edition to that night as well.

In part 2, discussions include Shondaland, the Bachelor franchise, and Seth MacFarlane. Stay tuned!

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